“This inner [guardian] figure was such a powerful ‘force’ that the term daimonic seemed an apt characterization. . . It could play a protective or a persecutory role—sometimes alternating back and forth between them.”
—Donald Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit
In the second chapter of Strieber’s 2012 release, Solving the Communion Enigma, titled “The Mirror Shattered,” Strieber describes a psychological phenomenon which he calls “shattering the mirror of expectation”:
I was very young when these things happened. Whatever they were, they certainly shattered the mirror of expectation for me, leaving me, like my wife and so many other people whose understanding of reality has been upended in childhood, open from then on to noticing what most people assume to be impossible and therefore do not see. Once the mirror of expectation is shattered, the door of perception is open, and there is something there, something alive, looking back at us from where the mirror once stood (p. 24).
In 2007, a Jungian therapist recommended me a book called The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit, by a clinical psychologist named Donald Kalsched. In it, Kalsched writes about a similar phenomenon as that described by Strieber, but reaches a somewhat different conclusion. Based on his psychotherapeutic work with abuse sufferers, Kalsched describes how early experiences of trauma “destroy outer meaning”—in reaction to which, “patterns of unconscious fantasy provide an inner meaning to the trauma victim.” He relates these “inner images and fantasy structures” to “the miraculous life-saving defenses that assure the survival of the human spirit when it is threatened by the annihilating blow of trauma.” Kalsched’s description precisely echoes Strieber’s accounts of being rescued by the visitors from abuse at the hands of unethical government agencies, as a child. In Kalsched’s model, the visitors are equivalent to psychic agents of daimonic intervention.
The word “daimonic” comes from daiomai, which means to divide, and originally referred to moments of divided consciousness such as occur in slips of the tongue, failures in attention, or other breakthroughs from another realm of existence which we would call “the unconscious.” Indeed, dividing up the inner world seems to be the intention of [the daimonic] figure. Jung’s word for this was “dissociation,” and our daimon appears to personify the psyche’s dissociative defenses in those cases where early trauma has made psychic integration impossible” (p. 11).
Intense anxiety in early childhood threatens to annihilate the child’s personality, causing “the destruction of the personal spirit.” When severe trauma occurs in early infancy (i.e., before a coherent ego and its defenses have formed), “a second line of defenses comes into play to prevent the ‘unthinkable’ from being experienced.” This allows the child to survive psychologically and physically, but in later life the psychic defense system becomes a prison, preventing “unguarded spontaneous expressions of the self in the world. The person survives but cannot live creatively.”
When trauma strikes the developing psyche of the child, a fragmentation of consciousness occurs in which the different “pieces” (Jung called them splinter-psyches or complexes) organize themselves according to certain archaic and typical (archetypal) patterns, most commonly dyads or syzygies made up of personified “beings.” Typically, one part of the ego regresses to the infantile period, and another part progresses, i.e., grows up too fast and becomes precociously adapted to the outer world, often as a “false self.” The progressed part of the personality then caretakes the regressed part (p. 3).
A person suffering from trauma may experience what appears to be an authentic spiritual awakening. Yet the “awakening” is really a form of (necessary) dissociation to escape the effects of trauma, and entails a splitting of the psyche into a progressed (“enlightened”) part and a correspondingly regressed part. This latter is in constant need of the protection and care of the “higher self.” The progressed part then acts as a “guardian,” whose function is not just to prevent further trauma, but also psychic integration.
While dissociation protects the psyche from being overwhelmed by trauma, it also prevents the experience from being fully “integrated,” or processed. This forces the person to continuously reenact the trauma because they are unconsciously seeking “closure.” Such an unconscious process is two-fold: the individual “relives” the trauma in the form of flashbacks, dreams, compulsive self-judgments or self-harming practices, and even via physical encounters that echo or shadow the original event (such as a series of abusive relationships). At the same time, the compulsive retraumatization entails a further splitting within the psyche that allows for continued dissociation. This can be seen in how a traumatized person cuts themselves to release dopamine in the body: the compulsive traumatic reenactment being an unconscious means to bring about the relief of dissociation.
The “awakening” gained by such dissociative states—ironically—is a kind of waking sleep (trance) state in which it is possible to gain temporary access to unconscious, archetypal aspects of the psyche, and to feel nurtured, guided, and protected by them. The trouble is that these “higher”-deeper parts of the psyche are being roped into a larger complex or agenda, that of retraumatization and dissociation. Though they may seem angelic, they are really acting as the soul’s guardian or prison keeper, preventing the original trauma from being integrated or processed and the psyche from becoming a functioning, autonomous whole.
To this end, the “daimonic” or archetypal guardian will go to any length to protect the traumatized child-part of the psyche—even to the point of killing the “host” personality (suicide). Kalsched notes how the “progressed part of the personality” (the caregiver-guardian) is “represented in dreams by a powerful benevolent or malevolent great being who protects or persecutes” the regressed part, keeping it “safe,” but also “imprisoned within.” The progressed part has two faces and is “a ‘duplex’ figure, a protector and persecutor in one.” The picture this paints is an almost perfect match for Strieber’s “visitors,” whom he continues to perceive alternately as “angelic” and “demonic.” Kalsched’s description of how archetypal defenses prevent personality development closely mirrors both Strieber’s experience and his personality. Archetypal defenses, Kalsched writes,
keep the personal spirit “safe” but disembodied, encapsulated, or otherwise driven out of the body/mind unity—foreclosed from entering time and space reality. Instead of slowly and painfully incarnating in a cohesive self, the volcanic opposing dynamisms of the inner world become organized around defensive purposes, constituting a “self-care system” for the individual. Instead of individuation and integration of mental life, the archaic defense engineers dis-incarnation (disembodiment) and dis-integration in order to help a weakened anxiety-ridden ego to survive, albeit as a partially “false” self (Kalsched, p. 38, emphasis added).
Early trauma may be an effective means of predisposing a person towards individuation and eventual enlightenment. But at the same time, and far more frequently, it can be crippling. Clearly not all sufferers of early trauma go on to become spiritual seekers, much less enlightened; nor does it seem likely that early trauma is essential to a spiritual outlook. (Kripal makes the same point in his article.) This may be a somewhat moot point, however, because if we take into account the effects of modern medical birthing procedures (not to mention the preponderance of child abuse), trauma has become something of the norm in Western society over the last couple of centuries. If we allow that mysticism, spirituality, etc., are among the healthier and more natural responses to trauma, they are still far less common reactions than drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, depression, suicide, and so on. In comparing all of these responses, however—specifically in comparing Strieber’s and my own experiences—I would say that dissociation from the body is very much the key to understanding them.
Kalsched describes how dissociation allows life to continue “by dividing up the unbearable experience and distributing it to different compartments of the mind and body, especially the ‘unconscious’ aspects of the mind and body” (emphasis added). This prevents the normally unified elements of consciousness (cognitive awareness, affect, sensation, imagery) from being integrated into a continuous, perceptual whole, as a result of which, “Experience itself becomes discontinuous.” Kalsched ensuing description reads like a blueprint for Strieber’s fragmented accounts:
Flashbacks of sensation seemingly disconnected from a behavioral context occur. The memory of one’s life has holes in it—a full narrative history cannot be told by the person whose life has been interrupted by trauma [emphasis added]. For the person who has experienced unbearable pain, the psychological defense of dissociation allows external life to go on but at great internal cost. The outer trauma and its effects may be largely “forgotten,” but the psychological sequelae of the trauma continue to haunt the inner world, and they do this, Jung discovered, in the form of certain images which cluster around a strong affect—what Jung called “the feeling-toned complexes.” These complexes tend to behave autonomously as frightening inner “beings”. . . (p. 12-13, emphasis added).
Paraphrasing, if early trauma cannot be assimilated by the conscious mind and is pushed down into the unconscious, into the body, the individual’s inner world is “haunted” by personified agents of trauma. The task of these psychosomatic “beings” is to bring the dissociated ego’s awareness back to wholeness, back to the body. Strieber’s encounters with the visitors entailed extreme physical interactions, including violations of his body. To this day, Strieber says he was raped by the visitors, even while professing love for them (a typical response of the abused). Strieber also experienced somatic symptoms after the memories first began to resurface, even possibly to the point of stigmata, and it was these symptoms that fully alerted him to the past traumatic events.
While Strieber insists that his experiences with the visitors are real, and that the visitors exist independently of his own imagination, Kalsched would almost certainly reject the need to differentiate the real (physical) from the imaginary (psychic). When we hear the word “psyche,” we tend to associate it with “mind,” hence with something that is unreal. Yet psyche means “soul,” and the only way for soul to come all the way into mind-awareness is for it to be experienced through, and as, body. Psychic integration (bringing the elements of our unconscious being into consciousness) happens not in the mind, but in and through the body. This is because psychic fragmentation (disintegration) takes place in the body. What we think of as mind (or at least the way we experience the thing we call “mind”) is merely the result of psychic fragmentation.
Spiritual experiences can accompany a soul-body (psychosomatic) integration; but they are more commonly used as a surrogate for it. Like sex and drugs, they can allow us to “bliss out” and further dissociate from body awareness and into mental fantasies that provide some scant bodily relief. This would be especially so if dissociation was a “trick” which the psyche learned early on, because dissociation then becomes unconscious, automatic behavior. If dissociation involves numbing our awareness of the somatic affects of trauma, it follows that genuine spiritual awakening—becoming fully embodied—would entail allowing awareness to awaken to those early affects. This is far more likely to be painful than blissful. Bliss states might appear to be leading to fuller embodiment when they are really the result of the mind using spiritual fantasies (dissociation) to release anesthetizing chemicals in the body to stave off integration (just as heroin or morphine can be used to create pleasing physical sensations). The very sort of techniques we learned as infants to protect ourselves from trauma, we then adapt as adults under the guise of “spiritual practices.” This is a very apparent danger of “spiritual awakenings” that result from trauma.
In his essay “The Traumatic Secret,” Kripal references Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception (a book I first read in my very early twenties, in the same period I discovered Carlos Castaneda), specifically Huxley’s idea of a “Mind at Large” and how the brain works as a reducing valve. Kripal writes about how we can’t access this universal “mind” because we lack a “safe way to shut down the filter. Because of this, the conflation of consciousness and brain states or cultural conditions is more or less . . . unassailable.” He laments this conflation and chalks it down to the desire to “study what we have easy and reliable access to, not what we do not have access to and can only know once or twice in a life-time, if at all.”
An interest in uncoupling consciousness from brain states and gaining repeat access to “Mind at Large” appears to be a primary, driving interest of intelligence communities (from MKULTRA to remote viewing), as well as for both Strieber and Kripal. It is in fact what has hitched their starships together, as seen in their latest offering in 2016, a full-blown collaboration called The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained, by which Kripal appears to be working to legitimize Strieber’s until now marginal (if best-selling) accounts. Both Kripal and Strieber represent themselves as literary outliers doing groundbreaking research into generally overlooked, even maligned, subject matter; on the surface this appears to be true. On the other hand, there’s a substantial area of overlap between the margin which Kripal and Strieber appear to be occupying, and the hidden mainstream represented by decades-long intelligence and governmental research into consciousness and matter. There also seems to be a shared disregard for how the means of accessing the unconscious might influence the end. This was my main argument with Kripal, and it was one which I never felt he addressed, namely, that observing how dissociation of the psyche in response to trauma allows access to “transpersonal,” disembodied realms of consciousness leaves unanswered the question of how reliable the experiences will be once we get there. Ignoring this question—which both Kripal and Strieber do—seems to lead inexorably—and prematurely—to the idea of applying the equivalent of a Hadron collider to the human psyche.
If, through the intervention of technology—and perhaps more ordinary modes of interference such as sexual abuse—it is possible to access the hidden realm of matter by attacking children’s psyches, can there be any doubt that such attempts are being made? Is there any difference between Kripal’s “safe way to shut down the filter” in the brain, and Strieber’s shattering the mirror of expectation? And how safe is this process really? Kripal asserts that “the sacred is accessed ritually and mystically primarily through the violation of taboo,” and compares this age-old tradition to the Hadron collider. The key, he argues, is that “we can only get there”—there being the realization that “matter is not material at all”—“through a great deal of physical violence, a violence so extreme and so precise that it cost us billions of dollars and decades of preparation to inflict it.”
“There is the possibility, as I have discussed, that conscious life extends into an energetic level that is completely detached from the physical.”
—Whitley Strieber, Solving the Communion Enigma
In the third chapter of Solving the Communion Enigma, Strieber discusses a shadowy organization called “the Finders,” whose activities first came to light when reported by the Washington Post in February 1987. Two white males were arrested in Tallahassee Park, with six disheveled children, all under the age of seven. From the Customs report from February 12, 1987:
The children were covered with insect bites, were very dirty, most of the children were not wearing underpants and all of the children had not been bathed in many days. . . . The men were somewhat evasive in their answers to police and stated only that they were the children’s teachers and that all were en route to Mexico to establish a school for brilliant children. The children were unaware of the functions of telephones, television and toilets, and stated that they were not allowed to live indoors and were only given food as a reward. . . . Cursory examination of documents revealed detailed instructions for obtaining children for unspecified purposes. The instructions included the impregnation of female members of the community, purchasing children, trading and kidnapping. . . . There were pictures of nude children and adult Finders, as well as evidence of high-tech money transfers. There was a file called ‘Pentagon Break-in,’ and references to activities in Moscow, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, North Vietnam, North Korea, Africa, London, Germany, ‘Europe’ and the Bahamas. . . . One such telex specifically ordered the purchase of two children in Hong Kong to be arranged through a contact in the Chinese Embassy there. Other documents identified interests in high-tech transfers to the United Kingdom, numerous properties under the control of the Finders, a keen interest in terrorism, explosives, and the evasion of law enforcement. (ref.)
A warehouse purportedly in use by the organization was discovered and evidence of their activities found. The Finders were described in a court document as a cult that conducted “brainwashing” and used children “in rituals.” Photographs allegedly showed naked children involved in bloodletting ceremonies of animals and sexual orgies, including a photograph of a child in chains. Evidence was found for an international network of child trafficking for sexual and other purposes (ref). The investigation was abruptly ended, however, when the US Justice Department named it a matter of “national security.” It was turned over to the CIA as an “internal security matter.” The evidence was suppressed (there’s no Wikipedia page for the case), and the children were released back to the same adults who had been arrested for abusing them. (My source for this information besides the above link is Chapter 6, “Finders Keepers,” of David McGowan’s Programmed to Kill, iUniverse, 2004.)
Why, in a book about alien contact, does Strieber have a chapter about this group? The answer is that he has ample reason to suspect that he was also inducted, as a child, into whatever murky operation being carried out under the cloak of national security. Strieber remembers being taken to a school for “brilliant children” in Monterrey, Mexico, though he is left with “very little recollection of what happened there.”
There is one flash of memory of seeing another child holding a bloody saw. I was told that this child had killed somebody with it. The child appeared absolutely terrified. While this person, whom I still know well, seems to have no memory of this incident, she has lived a ruined, disturbed life. She has never been healthy, either physically or mentally. My wife tells me that I have mentioned seeing Jewish babies there, and that I once said that the school was located in a villa owned by somebody connected with the Pan American Sulphur Company. I have no recollection of saying either of these things. The Pan American Sulphur Company did indeed exist, and was once a powerful influence in Mexico (ref).
Strieber first wrote about this period of his life (growing up in San Antonio, Texas, in the 1940s and 1950s) in 1997, in The Secret School. The book recounts a “hidden life” in which Strieber and other children belonged to a secret school run by “the visitors” (curiously, he remembers them mostly as nuns, called “Sisters of Mercy”). It was six years later, at his website in 2003, that he first shared memories of a secret government program that involved systemized traumatization of children, for ends never fully explained.
Strieber’s psychic odyssey presents two very different narratives playing side by side: a terrifying human program of psychological and physical interference, and a “sublime,” transcendental apprenticeship to nonhuman beings. The two narratives overlap, invisibly, in Strieber’s writings, and we can only assume they do so in his mind. Strieber bridges this apparent gulf by suggesting that “the close encounters were real, and that they involved literally breaking through into another level of reality in order to escape the hell I was enduring in this one.” (ref) Yet what Strieber is describing is classic dissociation. Even if the encounters were psychically real, it ignores the fact that his body was being submitted to equally real physical abuse while the supposedly “transcendental” lessons were taking place. Unless, that is, he believes he was physically taken away by these beings?
At this point, it may be wise to state my position more clearly. I am not arguing that nonhuman and intelligent beings, similar to those described by Strieber, do not exist, or even that they don’t interact with us. And while this might seem to some readers to be the crucial question here, I consider it beyond my capacity—and possibly anyone’s—to ascertain. I am not even arguing that some of Strieber’s impressions and memories may not relate to genuine encounters with divine-infernal beings, outside of (though undoubtedly working in tandem with) his own “archetypal defenses.” This is all uncharted territory, and such hypothetical beings may very well be involved. What I am suggesting, or at least wondering, is how he, and others in similar positions, are putting together the pieces to assemble a seemingly coherent narrative that, quite frankly, does not add up?
There are two areas which I have been drawn to focus on to answer this question: the missing pieces that have been excluded—the “holes” in Strieber’s narrative created by a dissociated psyche. And, in direct response to that omission, any elements that have been added to, or superimposed onto, the picture, in order to take advantage of the dissociation and “fill in” those holes. The first question—locating missing pieces—is almost wholly psychological; the second—identifying any spurious elements which have been added—while also psychological (everything is), overlaps with the parapolitical question of social and religious engineering, namely this:
To what degree have the narratives which Strieber and other “contactees” (and mystic commentators such as Huxley and Kripal) report, and which they may well sincerely believe, been discreetly shaped by outside agencies to exploit deeper, archetypal associations in the collective psyche, thereby giving a richness of meaning to a manufactured narrative, fueling a political agenda with “the stuff of dreams”?
In other words, is there an actual, ongoing socio-political agenda using a combination of “traditional” beliefs with newly created ones, or new arrangements and interpretations of old ones, for the creation of a “scientistic religion”? The evidence for such an agenda is compelling, and it strongly suggests the psychological manipulation of individuals (possibly from an early age) in an attempt to access and harness the human potential for psychism. In the process, leaders, teachers, and spokespeople for the new paradigm (such as Strieber) are being created, from childhood on. Most disturbing of all, the basis of this (hypothetical) socio-political agenda, or at least one primary aspect of it, appears to be the appliance of trauma as the means to activate the psychic centers of the human brain, ushering in a “new evolutionary stage” for the species that (it is hoped) will act as a socially acceptable (i.e., manipulable) surrogate for authentic (full body) spiritual enlightenment.
Whatever agendas might be at work in society, however, is less my concern than undoing my own psychic conditioning by mapping the state of Strieber’s psyche. In both cases (my own and Strieber’s), what I am starting to see is how much early trauma has caused fragmentation and left “holes” or cracks, in our psyches and our pasts. “The memory of one’s life has holes in it—a full narrative history cannot be told by the person whose life has been interrupted by trauma.” These holes are inevitably filled by other energies. Whether such energies come from the environment or from our own unconscious—or, as is generally the case, both at once—they appear to have their own agendas. Identifying what kind of energies have filled the holes and what their agendas might be is only part of the process. The next step is finding out what lies behind those energies. This entails locating the holes in the plot—the cracks in the mirror—and uncovering the cover story which Strieber, or I, or all of us, have been telling ourselves, throughout our adult lives.
It means not only finding the holes, but going all the way into them.
 See the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study findings from 2003: “ACEs were not only unexpectedly common, but their effects were found to be cumulative. The first publication from the ACE Study examined the relationship of the ACE Score to many of the leading causes of death in the United States. Major risk factors for these causes of death—such as smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, physical inactivity, use of illicit drugs, promiscuity, and suicide attempts— were all increased by ACEs. Among the more notable findings were that compared to persons with an ACE score of 0, those with an ACE score of 4 or more were twice as likely to be smokers, 12 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 7 times more likely to be alcoholic, and 10 times more likely to have injected street drugs. [P]roblems such as addiction frequently have their origins in the traumatic experiences of childhood and that the molecular structure of various chemicals or the physiologic effects of certain behaviors (e.g. overeating, sexual behaviors)—while ultimately leading to disease and disability, may be particularly effective in ameliorating their effects. . . . While these approaches are effective in the short term, they often have dire long-term consequences such as serious chronic health and social problems. . . . In combination, the fallout from various forms of child abuse and household dysfunction is monumental, costing Americans untold sums of money because of the health risks such as the use of street drugs, tobacco, alcohol, overeating and sexual promiscuity. Not the least of these high-ticket medical costs is due to: cardio-vascular disease, cancer, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted often-high-risk pregnancies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and a legacy of self-perpetuating child abuse.” http://www.acestudy.org/
 The later trauma (Strieber’s abduction in 1985, say) is almost certainly a reenactment of an original trauma that caused early dissociation, making it an attempt of the psychosomatic system to reintegrate the experience into awareness. Turning it into a “spiritual awakening” or shamanic initiation may be the means by which the “guardian” (the self-care system) tricks the individual into escaping the terrifying impact of a full bodily awakening. “Repressed material can only resurface into consciousness in an atmosphere of denial and negation, so a fuller awakening means an ever greater distortion of consciousness and increase in neurosis.” Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death, p. 232.